You know what, whenever I write about this topic, it feels like I am banging my head against a brick wall. However, every time I do, it’s something that needs to be addressed.
Last week, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to chat about the lack of protection he has been receiving from referees for illegal hits. Then on Sunday, he was hit with a jarring shot to the head by Los Angeles Rams safety Mark Barron, which the referees did not throw a flag.
Another sack from Aaron Donald was borderline high on the quarterback in the pocket and this comes a week after Arizona Cardinals defender Calais Campbell hit Newton in the knees. The referees did not call a penalty on that play but Campbell was retrospectively punished by the league.
Let us put the record straight, there have clearly been a few pretty heinous hits on Newton this season. Some are while he is a runner and players taking a shot while it’s legal, when it really shouldn’t be to any player, and others have been whilst he’s been in the pocket, where every other quarterback is protected even if someone brushes their helmet with a hand.
Many of the players that saw him complain about this issue have simply told him to get on with the game. Repeated statements of “it’s a man’s game” and “it’s his fault for being a runner” are continuously sprouted out as bulletins hiding as insidious remarks about someone who has rubbed them up the wrong way.
They then say that he’s a six-foot-five machine that should be able to handle smaller men with ease. That comes from when players are hurtling at him without applying the brakes, throwing their entire bodyweight into their hit and concentrating it to his cranium.
Size doesn’t factor in that as much, other than it’ll hurt even more from the bigger boys. It’s a silly comment, I’m certain that even The Mountain from Game of Thrones would moan if you shot Tyrion at his head from a cannon.
Cam Newton isn’t a wuss or a softie. Cam Newton is a man acutely aware of what numerous, damaging hits to the head can do to a person and would kindly like to be able to live a normal life once his footballing career comes to an end.
The lack of protection in the pocket by the officials on the Barron hit was astonishing. Newton was clearly in the pocket preparing to throw and the safety made no attempt not to hit him in the head, even when most defensive players know if they do that, even on a legal hit, they will be flagged.
Yet no yellow rained down on that play.
To anyone watching back that doesn’t have any sense of bias or longing for “the good ol’ days” knows that should have been called. If that was Peyton Manning, there would have been outcry but since it’s the dancing, smiling man that speaks his mind, it’s fine for him to get his clocks cleaned.
There should not be any head-to-head contact in the NFL period. It’s a dangerous move on both parties that has led to severe health problems for ex-professionals and the fact it still happens to anyone is shocking.
Newton said in a press conference last week that the game was becoming less fun for him. The 2015 MVP, in a season full of average play and declining ratings, simply put exactly what everyone else was thinking into perspective.
The NFL needs something to change. If this year, with all its oddities and embarrassments, isn’t enough then it may never do so.